As Members may know, for some time now many fellow Members of the Association have written to the Charity Commission outlining their particular concerns over recent matters concerning our Association. A general response to those Members from the Charity Commission was issued very recently and with permission of one of those recipients here is that response:

Thank you for your email(s) regarding the West Somerset Railway Association. Please accept my apologies for the delay in providing you with a response.

I have reviewed all of the information we have received and I understand that the situation has moved on since the review of the charity’s governance was undertaken. Whilst the review identified a number of possible governance and regulatory issues, the primary concern now is who the validly appointed trustees are and this is not something that the Commission can definitively rule on.

I understand that the members called an EGM which was held on 27 February 2016 at which the trustees were removed and new trustees appointed. The trustees in post at the time have expressed concerns about the validity of that meeting and therefore the decisions made at it. The Charity Commission does not have the power to determine whether or not the meeting itself was valid. The parties involved would need to take their own legal advice on this point and if necessary mediate an agreement in order to move forward.

Our guidance (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/disagreements-and-disputes-in-charities) makes it clear that we will only get involved in disputes within charities where there are no validly appointed trustees. In this case, there are trustees, the only issue is who are the validly appointed group. If those involved cannot reach an agreement on this key issue, then only the courts can determine who the trustees are and pursuing the matter through the courts would require the consent of the Commission under s.115 of the Charities Act 2011. We would not consider giving this consent unless all other options, including mediation, had been exhausted.

I appreciate that the governance review identified issues regarding some of the decisions made by the trustees; however until all those involved can resolve the issue of who the trustees are we are not in a position to determine what regulatory action may be appropriate

Once the parties involved have agreed who the properly appointed trustees are, steps should be taken to ensure that they have access to all the charity’s records so that they can determine what the next steps are in terms of getting the charity back on track. If at this stage, the trustees identify serious regulatory issues which they believe require the intervention of the Charity Commission they should contact us again.

A copy of this email has been sent to all those individuals who have contacted us to ensure that all parties involved have the same information.

Yours Sincerely

Joanne Maguire
Senior Case Officer
Permissions and Compliance Team
Charity Commission

We leave the Membership to draw its own conclusions.

 

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